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Berry Tramel: Sam Bradford can end all arguments about who's the best QB in Sooner history

by Berry Tramel Modified: August 30, 2009 at 11:06 am •  Published: August 30, 2009
/articleid/3396796/1/pictures/665542">Photo - If Sam Bradford has another great season, he will be the best QB all-time at the University of Oklahoma. (Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman Archive)
If Sam Bradford has another great season, he will be the best QB all-time at the University of Oklahoma. (Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman Archive)
But don’t sell out to them.

White and Bradford won Heismans; Heupel finished second in 2000 to Chris Weinke. But you can’t let voters in Mobile, Ala., and Salt Lake City decide greatness in other ports, unless you’re ready to declare Archie Griffin better than Jim Brown.

And while All-American status matters, don’t forget this: In his 16 years as head coach, Barry Switzer never had an All-American quarterback.

Historical impact: This is where Mildren (and Heupel) and shine. They profoundly changed OU football, with their success in cold-turkey offensive revolutions.

I give Mildren the slight edge, because the wishbone saved the Fairbanks era and paved the way for Switzer, while I assume Stoops would have figured things out even had not Heupel popped out of a genie bottle.

Bradford can’t match such impact, but he does have that chunk of granite and could win another, which would be a sonic boom, and win or lose the ’09 Heisman, his star appeal is unlike anything ever seen on Owen Field. The only person close might be Ma Selmon.

Longevity: This usually is more of a pro issue. A quarterback who is great for six years is not equal to a quarterback who is great for 12.

But it matters in college, too, in smaller ratios. A star for three years trumps a star for two years. Advantage, Bradford.

OU never has had a three-year QB like Bradford. Mildren ran hot and cold before finding the wishbone midway through his junior year. Heupel played only two seasons. Knee injuries wrecked two White seasons.

Holieway, you know about. Eddie Crowder as a sophomore played behind Arnold. Mitchell was a three-year star, but for some reason (Darrell Royal), Wilkinson kept trying to move Mitchell to halfback.

Thomas Lott didn’t take over until midway through his sophomore year, and neither did Harris. Strange but true: Bradford already has started more games in two seasons (28) than Harris did in three (25).

So that leaves only Davis, the unlikely leader of Switzer’s first three teams, 1973-75. Davis went 32-1-1 as a starter and played about as well as a sophomore as he did as a senior.

I think generally we far too often have downgraded option quarterbacks in favor of throwers. Optioneers had to make split-second decisions and execute flawlessly, or the split-T and wishbone would go south in a hurry.

But still, quarterback play is more important than ever before. It’s harder to play quarterback than ever before. And Mildren is the only option quarterback to play at Bradford’s standard.

Mildren did it for a year and a half. Bradford has done it two years and counting.

Slingin’ Sam is about to be the greatest quarterback in Sooner history.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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